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Wednesday, June 7, 1967

“Yellow Submarine” animated film announced

Last updated on May 10, 2024


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On this day, it was announced to the press that the Beatles had agreed to the making of a full-length animated film called “Yellow Submarine”, named after their song of 1966.

Al Brodax, who created the Beatles Cartoon, produced it. The original story was written by Lee Minoff, and the screenplay was penned by four collaborators, including Erich Segal. Although the Beatles were not enthusiastic about the project, they agreed to deliver four new songs for its soundtrack. These included “Only A Northern Song“, a leftover from the Sgt. Pepper sessions, “All Together Now“, which they started recording on May 12, 1967, “It’s All Too Much“, which they began recording on May 25, 1967, and “Hey Bulldog“, the latest song they had recorded in February 1968.

Yellow Submarine” premiered on July 17, 1968.

The [Beatles Cartoon] series ran for three years. During that time Brian made a deal with United Artists to make three pictures. He did A Hard Day’s Night and Help! But the third picture came up and the boys didn’t want to do it. They wanted to go to India. So I contacted UA and I suggested that I could do an animation and they could go to India and everybody would be happy. Brian consented and the deal got a little better for us. Lots of treatments were submitted by important people like Joe Heller, who wrote Catch 22. Brian was impossible. He dismissed Heller’s treatment because the cover was purple and Brian didn’t like purple. It got up to about a dozen treatments. I wrote one. Erich Segal wrote one. He’s a wonderful guy. He’s also full of himself.

Al Brodax – Producer – From MOJO, October 1999

I was an assistant professor of classics at Yale. I was asked by the late Richard Rodgers to collaborate with him on a musical. On the day Richard Rodgers made the announcement, Al Brodax flew to London and read the New York Times on the way. He saw the article about me and when he got to London and I found chaos he said, We’ve got to get this guy, he just might be the ticket.

Erich Segal – From MOJO, October 1999

The Beatles thought I was too old. They wanted someone younger and I called a man who said his kid brother might fit the bill because he’s got long hair and wears crazy suits. That was Lee Minoff. Lee could not write dialogue but he did come up with names that I thought were intriguing like The Monstrous Blues and The Snapping Turtle Turks and Old Fred. The Beatles liked Lee but they hated the treatment. So we cobbled something else together, using that treatment as the basis and just called it Yellow Submarine.

Al Brodax – From MOJO, October 1999

Al Brodax talked to us about the possibility of doing a feature and we met at my house in London. Erich Segal came along as well. I talked to them about Yellow Submarine which they wanted to build the film around. I told them that I had very definite thoughts about this. There is a land of actual submarines – all different coloured and in fact it’s a commune. All four of us hoped for something a little bit groovier. Sort of more classic Pinocchio or Snow White. Right away, they made it clear they weren’t keen to do just a straight Disney thing.

Paul McCartney – From MOJO, October 1999

We consciously went away from the Disney style. We had a big sign up at the studio: Disney – The Opposite.

Al Brodax – From MOJO, October 1999

They said, “We think you’re further out now.” So from being rather childish, which that cartoon series most definitely was, they wanted to go completely psychedelic!

Paul McCartney – From MOJO, October 1999

I love cartoons – I love the Disney stuff. So, you know, the first thing when we heard people were going to do a cartoon I just thought, ‘Yeah, this could be the greatest Disney cartoon ever’ – I mean, with our music. But they were going more Pepper direction, so we said, ‘Well why don’t you just take a lot of songs we’ve got already?

Paul McCartney – from Yellow Submarine | The Beatles

The boys didn’t think it was a good idea at all! The idea of being portrayed in cartoon form was basically abhorrence to them, particularly when the guy who was doing it, the only track record they could think of to what he had done was The Flintstones!

George Martin – From “The Beatles: Off the Record” by Keith Badman, 2008

You know what Al Brodax used to do? Brodax got half the Yellow Submarine out of my mouth! You know the idea for the hoover? The machine that sucks people up? All those were my ideas! They used to come to the studio and, sort of, chat, ‘Hi, John, old bean. Got any ideas for the film?’ And I’d just spout out all this stuff, and they went off and did it, you know.

John Lennon – From “The Beatles: Off the Record” by Keith Badman, 2008

We had to do some songs that were exclusive to the film. I don’t think we were too keen because we were quite busy recording other things and we probably wanted a bit of time off.

Paul McCartney – From MOJO, October 1999

There was a commitment for The Beatles to do four songs for the film. Apparently, they would say this is a lousy song, let’s give it to Brodax.

Al Brodax – From MOJO, October 1999

Their reaction was, “OK, we’ve got to supply them with these bloody songs but we’re not going to fall over backwards. We’ll let them have them whenever we feel like it, and we’ll give them whatever we think is right.”

George Martin – From MOJO, October 1999

The Beatles are very, very enthusiastic about the new animated film Yellow Submarine. They have been calling us at all times with ideas. We have even had discussions at two o’clock in the morning! Their suggestions are very good. So far, all The Beatles ideas are being incorporated into the movie.

Al Brodax – American producer – From “The Beatles: Off the Record” by Keith Badman, 2008

The fact that they fixed a premiere 11 months ahead of starting without a script and without a storyboard was fairly crazy.

John Coates – Animation director – From MOJO, October 1999

Going further

The Beatles Diary Volume 1: The Beatles Years

"With greatly expanded text, this is the most revealing and frank personal 30-year chronicle of the group ever written. Insider Barry Miles covers the Beatles story from childhood to the break-up of the group."

We owe a lot to Barry Miles for the creation of those pages, but you really have to buy this book to get all the details - a day to day chronology of what happened to the four Beatles during the Beatles years!

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